Before we discuss occupational therapy games and activities let’s look at some lingo.
When I say “high engine” I mean those times when he is obviously over stimulated. For S1 this means running around the house squealing.
A “low engine” means no energy, whining, laying around. (Did you know this can happen with ADHD? It does. Especially with too little input.)
A “just right engine” refers to when they feel happy, calm, and energetic without the frantic energy.
Heavy work is when your child uses strong muscles all over to exert energy and create a calming feeling all over the body.
What do I mean by “sensory input?” It’s all the things senses tells their brain. For example, my son’s sight sensory input is over stimulating so even though he reads above his grade level a worksheet with too many words and pictures or too many math problems gives him a headache and raises his anxiety. His eyes are constantly darting around. He makes eye contact and communicates well, but he is almost always overstimulated with sight. It’s one reason we made our understairs closet into a quiet, darker play closet. He prefers shadows over bright lights any day.
The closet tour will be next post!
Why Would a Child Need Occupational Therapy?
A sensory rich diet provides a child with needed input they can’t get without doing certain tasks.
You can eat candy all day and get your needed calories, but not your nutrients. It’s the same as a child who can touch, feel, smell, hear, and see all day but not get the right type of input for their brains to understand.
For my son he doesn’t get the necessary input on his own. He needs help finding the things that calm his senses.
So let’s look at some ADHD help for children that my son and many others I know have found success with.
Here’s a list of occupational therapy for children that really work and how to use them!
- The Special Needs Swing
This relatively inexpensive toy is really a tool! Who knew a swing could be a tool for ADHD? Not only for ADHD, this special needs swing is great for the Autism spectrum too. It provides deep pressure around the legs, arms, and trunk since it hugs the body, but for my son the best is the swinging motion. The rhythm calms him. But you have to be careful. Swinging in circles or random directions causes his “engine to be high” and his hyperactivity creeps in. It’s the slow back and forth that really provides the right input.
- Foamnasium Toys
I love these from Amazon! There are a few occupational therapy activities that these can provide.
- When your child has a low engine where her energy is low and she just lays around or feels grumpy then these help her increase her energy and therefore input. She can jump, crawl, roll on them, or stack them, and much more!
- When his engine is high then he can lay underneath them or on them. The deep pressure over a larger body surface gives him that calming input.
- Use them as an obstacle course! One thing my son does in OT is build an obstacle course, then he has to sit at the table and do some table work. (Listen to a book, color, learn new sensory input techniques, etc.). When he starts getting antsy at the table he can do a round of the obstacle course. His therapist said he’s a mover learner. He has to move to learn. So, we move a lot and that’s ok! Contrary to some schools’ beliefs, children don’t need to sit still and listen quietly to learn. In fact, for some like my son, it’s detrimental.
- Straw, Marbles, Balloons
You probably have these around your house already! We use them for mouth sensory input. S1 licks his lips and every surrounding area like this upper lip and chin his tongue can reach which makes his skin raw and even bleeding sometimes. Straws can be used normally and to blow bubbles or you can take a marble and in a tray, car tracks you already have, even tile grout have your child blow the marble. Siblings can even join in for a race!
For balloons we blow it in for the count of 7 (his age) and slowly let it out. (Not in their mouths. Letting the air out too fast so it zooms across the room can make their sensory processing go haywire since it raises the energy. So, watch and make sure that doesn’t make their behavior too high.) The balloon also helps learn deep breaths for those moments they are frustrated, so you can remind them to take deep breaths.
- The Wiggle Wedge
This little seat is one of S1’s favorites! We bought it off Amazon once he’d used it at OT and kept asking for it each week he went. You can fill it up as much as you want. Less air means more wiggle movement. It easily sits on his chair while he does homeshcool or eats dinner—both of which he struggles to sit for. The bumps provide even more input!
- Animal Walks Worksheet
These are great! They are the first step to creating his home toolbox which we’ll also touch up on next post. They are simple and plain for several reasons.
- They don’t overstimulate his vision with fancy frills and too many details.
- We use them in between his obstacle course. So he colors a few, learns the moves, then can go get his wiggles out on the obstacle course. It helps with fine motor skills too!
- He can cut them up and put them in his toolbox to pull out 3-5 to do when he needs to quiet his sensory input. The heavy work calms him.
So how do you use them? Well, I’ve got them right here for FREE for you to download! You can have them color them, cut them out, and learn the moves. When they need that input have them draw a few out and do the moves!
It’s a great way to get parents and siblings involved in therapy in a really fun and silly way!
Here is your FREE download!
I hope some of these ideas help! I’ll be posting new ideas, some I have already, and some we’ll learn in the process! Look for another free download next time on ways to get deep pressure on the go when you need a quick fix.
What products do you love for OT?